Debates over America’s infrastructure often focus on productivity, growth, and costs, but can sometimes overlook the human dimension of the crisis. Lead-contaminated drinking water in Michigan; dilapidated public schools in Oklahoma; collapsing bridges in Minnesota; flooded cities in Texas; and inadequate and unaffordable housing in every community —each aspect of America’s crumbling infrastructure harms real people and stifles human potential in the world’s wealthiest country.

Countless personal stories behind America’s deficient infrastructure contribute to a staggering economic and social toll. The scope of the problem ranges from the simple annoyance of bumper-to-bumper traffic, which amounts to billions of lost hours every year, to the tragic effect of air pollution, which causes hundreds of thousands of premature deaths annually and devastates the health of low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. 

Government spending on infrastructure as a share of the economy has fallen to a two-decade low, yet for every $1 invested in public-sector infrastructure, our economy would gain $1.70 back through greater employment and efficiency.A vision for infrastructure that invests our resources in people—a plan that produces millions of family-sustaining jobs, raises living standards, reduces inequality, strengthens education, reduces poverty, and cleans our environment—is more urgent than ever. But President Trump and the Republicans are intent on pursuing the exact opposite approach.

The Republican agenda is a sham, hardly investing any new resources into infrastructure while aiming to slash existing federal programs. In reality, President Trump and Congressional Republicans are pushing a trillion-dollar corporate giveaway that would create tax incentives for Wall Street to privatize our roads, bridges, sanitation systems, and utilities, while raising tolls, fees, and bills—all through taxpayer subsidies. Even worse, their approach will leave the infrastructure that we depend on in utter disrepair unless it generates a profit for private investors.[1]

The Congressional Progressive Caucus presents a real alternative, crafted in partnership with the grassroots: a 21st Century New Deal for Jobs, which aims to do no less than transform the foundations of America’s economy.

Drawing on the legacy of President Franklin Roosevelt’s bold vision and adapting it to a modern context, our 21st Century New Deal for Jobs makes Wall Street, big corporations, and the wealthiest pay their fair share in order to put America back to work. It invests $2 trillion over 10 yearsemploying 2.5 million Americans in its first year, to rebuild our transportation, water, energy, and information systems, while massively overhauling our country’s unsafe and inefficient schools, homes, and public buildings. Yet the New Deal for Jobs’detailed plan to nurture a vibrant, 21st century economy goes much further than rapidly achieving full employment and sustaining it over a decade. It recognizes that plentiful, dignified jobs are not enough. They must be paired with an agenda that empowers women and communities of color while protecting the planet.

Unlike the Republican agenda, a 21st Century New Deal for Jobs puts real money in the pockets of ordinary workers and families. A New Deal for Jobs mandates local hiring in addition to raising the benchmark for locally prevailing wages in each area, increasing infrastructure workers’ paychecks. The proposal further cements its commitment to working people by prioritizing the hiring of our veterans and demanding robust Buy America provisions in every federal procurement decision for labor and materials.

The 21st Century New Deal for Jobs combines strong job and wage growth with the fundamental principles of social and racial justice, targeting employment for those who have been systematically shut out of economic growth. This means that job training and local hiring will reflect the racial and gender diversity of the community’s workforce and those seeking employment. Federal procurement will prioritize minority- and women-owned businesses, cooperatives and employee-owned firms, and community-owned and municipal enterprises. Recognizing the job-creating power of small businesses, we also aim to increase funds awarded through programs such as Historically Underutilized Business Zones. 

Furthermore, the 21st Century New Deal for Jobs gives precedence to the infrastructure needs of people who are struggling the most. Lower-income people and communities of color coping with elevated unemployment—both rural and urban alike—will play a leading role in determining their own infrastructure gaps and solutions. It also calls for local and regional planning that considers equity of access to transportation across communities. The New Deal for Jobs marks a clear contrast with the infrastructure priorities of Republicans, who promote prisons and militarized border fences. Rather, a New Deal for Jobs improves Americans’ quality of life by removing toxins like lead and asbestos; revitalizing parks and schools; expanding the supply of safe, decent and affordable housing; ambitiously connecting our entire country through affordable high-speed internet and high-speed rail; cleaning our air and water; and shortening our travels in public transit, cars, and planes.

Finally, theNew Deal for Jobs invests the necessary resources into averting catastrophic climate change while generating millions of new jobs and positioning the United States as a global leader in the fast-growing industries and technologies of the future. New smart-grid strategies will revolutionize our outdated electricity transmission system and democratize energy production, promoting clean, carbon-free alternatives. Large-scale public financing for energy-efficiency retrofits in America’s buildings will drastically minimize waste while saving families money. Crucially, a New Deal for Jobs prioritizes federally funded employment opportunities within this burgeoning new sector for workers and communities who currently depend on fossil-fuel production.

A program as sweeping and ambitious as the 21st Century New Deal for Jobs must be guided by an ethos of building smart. Our plan integrates high-quality planning, cost controls, and maintenance into all initiatives while allocating additional human and technical resources to manage community and environmental approval processes. A New Deal for Jobs build-smart philosophy also mandates state-of-the-art security measures to protect America’s electrical grid, dams, broadband networks, and other vital infrastructure from cyber- and physical attacks.

Americans across the political spectrum are realizing that our country’s infrastructure is in desperate need of overhaul. But the contrast between the Republican vision and our 21st Century New Deal for Jobs could not be starker in either size or scope. The Congressional Progressive Caucus forcefully rejects an infrastructure agenda that wastes tens of billions of dollars on useless projects such as a thousands-of-miles-long border wall that threatens human and environmental safety.

The 21st Century New Deal for Jobs lays out, in careful detail, a humane framework for revitalizing our infrastructure in service to the health of our people and planet. Our plan offers a path toward a fairer economy in which we can all thrive. It is proof that our country’s complex infrastructure challenges can be guided by a simple principle: public money should go toward the public good.




First-year investment

(in billions)

Jobs created in first year

Roads and Bridges



Pre-K – 12 Public Schools



Drinking Water and Wastewater






High-speed Broadband



Affordable Housing






Airports, Ports, and Waterways



Veterans Affairs Facilities



Indian Country and Public Lands



Building Resiliency, Protecting Infrastructure, and Increasing Cybersecurity






All comparisons to White House and Congressional Republican infrastructure proposals refer respectively to “Trump Versus Clinton On Infrastructure” (Wilbur Ross, Peter Navarro, 10/27/16) and Speaker Paul Ryan’s “A Better Way” (6/7/16).